March 21, 2012

Mercer County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello will hold a special Passport Night on Thursday, March 29, from 3-7 p.m. at the Princeton Township Municipal Building with Township Mayor Chad Goerner. The county clerk will bring her passport staff to the municipal center to process U.S. Passport applications on-site for residents of Princeton and all other parts of the county.

Residents are encouraged to call (609) 989-6473 and reserve a time to have their applications processed and their passport photo taken, if needed. However, walk-in applicants are welcome. Additional representatives from the county clerk’s office will be on-site to assist residents with their forms. Every effort will be made to include those residents who do not make an appointment.

To apply for a passport, residents will need proof of United States citizenship in the form of a state certified birth certificate, a United States naturalization certificate or a previous United States passport. and proof of identity in the form of a current driver’s license or state issued identification card.The cost is $110 for adults and $80 for minors plus a processing fee of $25. The federal government requires a separate check for each passport application. Passport photos will be taken on-site for $15 or $10 for senior citizens and minors under 16. The clerk’s office will accept checks or money orders for payment. No cash or credit cards will be accepted at this event.

Effective last April, the Department of State now requires the full names of a passport applicant’s parents to be listed on all certified birth certificates to be considered as primary evidence of citizenship. The new requirements will apply to all passport applicants, regardless of their age. Under the new federal mandate, certified birth certificates missing parental information will not be accepted as proof of citizenship. For children, federal passport guidelines now require both parents to appear in person —- or one parent in person with notarized federal consent forms — when applying for a passport for a child under 16.

For further information, visit and click on County Clerk, General Info, or call (609) 989-6473.


FROM PRINCETON TO PERU: Princeton High School students who spent a week living with a family in Peru last year are, left to right, front row: Mia Quinn, Rebecca Goldman, Liana Bloom, Elise Mazur, and Rebecca Freda. Back row: Menelaos Mazarakis. The students are collecting used laptops to donate to the elementary school in the town they visited, which was devastated by mudslides.

Last July, Princeton High School Spanish teacher Martha Hayden took a group of 23 students on a trip to her native Peru. After a week of sightseeing and touring, 17 of the students returned home. The remaining six stayed on to take a closer look at local life, traveling to Taray, a small town that had been devastated by mudslides a year before.

It was an experience that left a deep impression on two students in particular. Rebecca Goldman and Elise Mazur, then sophomores, were inspired to establish a club upon their return home with a goal of helping the town recover from the mudslides. The girls’ focus has been Taray’s elementary school, which they helped rebuild during their visit. Having determined that computers are the school’s greatest need, they have launched a drive to collect used laptops to distribute to the school.

On Sunday, March 25, and Saturday, March 31, between 10 a.m. and noon, used but functioning laptops can be dropped off at the high school by the flagpole. As much memory as possible will be cleared from these computers before they are sent to the school in Peru. For those who have computers but can’t drop them off on the assigned dates, the volunteers will pick them up. Visit to make an arrangement for pickup.

Heavy rains in the Cusco region of Peru were responsible for the devastation in Taray in late February 2010. The six Princeton High students who traveled to the area stayed in the home of a local family who own the elementary school. With no flush toilets or other amenities taken for granted at home, the house was a far cry from the comforts of Princeton. But the students say they wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It’s one thing to learn about past cultures, but to actually witness contemporary life is another,” says Rebecca. “They have very little. But they’re really happy.”

The students spoke Quechua, the native language of Peru, as well as Spanish, during their visit. “We really felt how they live,” says Elise. “They are very self-sustaining. You really learn to live and not be dependent on the phone, the computer, the television. It’s certainly not comfortable, but you learn to live that way. You’re able to survive. And the mountains are so beautiful.”

Ms. Hayden prepared her students for the trip throughout the previous year. She also runs a travel agency called Creating Ties. She has been taking her students to Peru for the past seven years.

“I came to the U.S. when I was 17 as an exchange student,” she says. “I invite my students to make the trip because my curriculum is all geared toward Peru. We study everything. Having them see what we’ve learned about makes it all come alive for them. The guides are always surprised at how much the kids know and understand.”

The students say Ms. Hayden’s familiarity with the country was a major asset. “She brought us to more places that tourists wouldn’t usually see,” says Elise. “We went to Lima, Machu Picchu, and the usual places. But we also visited people’s houses and met artists.”

The elementary school that was flattened by the mudslide has 35 students and has been relocated to a nearby town. “We helped put some of the finishing touches on the building,” says Rebecca. “They still need about $2,000 to build a classroom. Because it is intercultural — they teach about Spanish and Quecha — they don’t receive any government funding.”

By acquiring computers, the school will be better able to teach the sciences, math, and sustainability, the girls say. “We just really want to do what we can to help, and this is what they need,” says Rebecca.


(Photo by Emily Reeves)

It’s about a whole lot more than selling cookies, for instance Saturday’s explosion of Zumba Fever, courtesy of the New York Sports Club, as the Princeton Shopping Center hosts the Girl Scouts’ 100th Birthday Celebration.

With an unprecedented number of registered members now on its rolls, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) has moved its Sunday, March 25 endorsement meeting from the Suzanne Patterson Center to the larger Jewish Center of Princeton. PCDO president Dan Preston says that the organization is expecting a huge turnout at the meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. and feature debates between candidates seeking PCDO endorsements.

More than 570 people have signed on as PCDO members so far, up from the usual 300 to 400, according to Mr. Preston. Members must be registered to vote in Princeton, and be registered as Democrats. Unaffiliated voters who join must affiliate as Democrats before being permitted to vote on the endorsements of mayoral and council candidates.

Vying for the mayoral endorsement are Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes and Township Committee member/Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert. Those running for Council are current Borough Mayor Yina Moore, Council members Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, Roger Martindell and Heather Howard; Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman; and newcomers Tamera Matteo, Patrick Simon, and Scott Sillars, who is vice chairman of the Transition Task Force.

Mr. Martindell is also hosting a discussion and reception Saturday, March 25 from 4-6 p.m. at Dorothy’s Garden/House, 144 Patton Avenue, rain or shine. Mr. Martindell will lead a discussion about how people envision Princeton after consolidation takes effect on January 1, 2013. The public is invited, and other candidates are encouraged to join the presentation.

At the PCDO event, registration will begin at 6 p.m. with member check-in and ballot distribution. The program starts at 6:30 p.m. Mr. Wilkes and Ms. Lempert will debate from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. The one-hour Council debate follows. Voting begins at 8:15 p.m. A presentation on the next steps after PCDO endorsement is at 8:30 p.m., during which time ballots will be counted. Endorsement results are estimated to be announced at 9 p.m.

A new rule adopted by the PCDO executive board mandates that ballots for the Council race must contain votes for a minimum of three candidates, up to a maximum of six, in order to be counted, or a vote of “no endorsement.”

In a letter to the editor of this issue of Town Topics, Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner urges the PCDO and Democrats to consider the three new faces on the ballot: Ms. Matteo, Mr. Sillars, and Mr. Simon. While those who have previously served on the governing bodies bring “important continuity and institutional knowledge” to the new council, the three newcomers “will not be encumbered in their decision-making by any past history of serving on one governing body or another,” he writes.

Princeton’s two police departments are anxious to hold on to the current staffing level of 57 officers once consolidation takes effect. Addressing the Transition Task Force Saturday, March 17, Borough Police Chief David Dudeck and Township Police Lieutenant Chris Morgan urged the Task Force not to recommend that the number be reduced to 51, which is what the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission proposed in its final report.

“I would urge you not to cut back on services,” said Chief Dudeck. “If there’s one area that would concern me the most, it would be the delivery of service. I hope that as we go through consolidation that our delivery of service is not impacted. The citizens of Princeton deserve high-end service.”

Both Chief Dudeck and Lieutenant Morgan expressed interest in discussing with the Task Force’s public safety subcommittee what an ideal number of officers might be. In its report, the Consolidation Commission recommended reaching the level of 51 officers through attrition, over three years. Those reductions would be from middle and upper management, not the patrol divisions.

The Borough currently has 30 sworn officers, while the Township has 27. Chief Dudeck said the two departments have been meeting regularly since the consolidation was passed last November, discussing everything from uniforms to personnel. He likened the blending of the two departments to “putting the Yankees and the Red Sox together and making them one team.

“We need your support to keep morale high, so that when we do form this new team, it will something you can be proud of,” he concluded, adding that the patrol division, “the backbone of the police department,” needs to remain fully staffed at all times.

Lieutenant Morgan noted that while the Township police has a traffic bureau, the Borough does not. With regard to the future, he said, “Our concern is for our residents. Depending on what manpower looks like, is it going to be deployed to downtown and are we going to lose police presence in the outskirts of the new Princeton?”

Mark Freda, who chairs the Transition Task Force, commented that negotiations about public safety should not be limited to financial concerns. “It’s not just about saving money,” he said. “There are services that need to be delivered. The public safety subcommittee will try to draw the best balance they can between services and cost savings, and come back with a recommendation to the Task Force.”

The Transition Task Force will meet tonight, March 21, at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall. The next meeting of the public safety subcommittee is Friday, March 23, at 8:30 a.m. in the Township building.

In addition to the fact that they both aspire to be the Democratic nominee for mayor of the municipality that will be created when the Princetons consolidate, Liz Lempert and Kevin Wilkes probably have more in common than not.

Both, for example, are very clear about the fact that in their current positions (he is a Borough Council member and she is a member of Township Committee as well as deputy mayor) and, as a potential mayor, there is no conflict of interest between their personal lives and their obligations as an elected official.

Ms. Lempert, whose husband, Ken Norman is a professor of psychology at Princeton University, does not anticipate that this connection will be a problem. “I don’t see it as being an issue,” she said in a recent interview. “There have been previous mayors of the Borough who’ve been in similar situations,” she added, citing the late Borough Mayor, Barbara Sigmund, whose husband, Paul, taught at the University during her time in office. Ms. Lempert noted that her husband “doesn’t represent University administration,” and half jokingly pointed to the fact that he is tenured.

Although she has recused herself from Township Committee votes relating to University issues in the past, Ms. Lempert believes that as an “advocate for the people” she will put her mayoral responsibilities first.

As an architect who has lived in Princeton for many years, Mr. Wilkes reports that he has “worked out grid rules” for avoiding conflicts of interest. These include not taking on any commercial projects, and never working for the University. “I just fix up people’s homes,” he said.

Ms. Lempert and Mr. Wilkes also appear to be in agreement about the tack that the Transition Task Force should be following. Noting that the “base issues” have been covered by the Consolidation Commission’s final report, Mr. Wilkes believes that the Task Force should “follow that score.” Beyond that, he added, “we should improvise.”

“We need to use it as a blueprint,” said Ms. Lempert of the Commission’s report. She pointed to “time constraints” that kept the Commission from working out “every possible problem,” and agreed that it would be okay to follow up on any problems or good new ideas that may arise. In the meantime, she added, setting “out to rewrite the report” is unacceptable.

As for their respective strengths, Ms. Lempert pointed to her good listening skills and ability to keep an open mind. Being deputy mayor of the Township since January has allowed her to participate on the Finance Committee, whose work. she said, “is particularly critical as we head into consolidation.” She pointed to the importance of “being on the same page” as the Borough regarding budgets and long-term financial planning. She is happy to pinch-hit for Mayor Chad Goerner when necessary, but wryly allowed that she could not stand in for him in the annual Longbeard Contest on St. Patrick’s Day.

Noting the difficulty of working with “unyielding” players, Mr. Wilkes sounded a note of pragmatism in discussing the hot-button issue of the Dinky location. While the Dinky move appears to him to be inevitable, he described turning it into something positive over the next five years by creating a streetcar system that would connect downtown Princeton to the new Dinky location.

Both Ms. Lempert and Mr. Wilkes have issued statements detailing their positions. They are available online at

March 14, 2012

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Most fans of Dr. Mehmet Oz, the cardiothoracic surgeon-turned-television-personality, associate him with physical fitness rather than mental health. But the two are inextricably linked, he told an enthusiastic audience at Princeton University’s McCosh 50 last Thursday night.

Dr. Oz, who is on the faculty of Columbia University and directs the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, was the keynote speaker at the University’s observance of Mental Health Awareness Week. The lecture hall was packed with students as well as members of the general public. The talk was simulcast to five other sites on campus.

A celebrity since his first appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004, Dr. Oz has had his own daily afternoon television program focused on health and medical information since 2009. His daughter, Daphne, graduated from Princeton in 2008, and a niece, who was in the audience, is currently a student at the University.

It is chronic stress, Dr. Oz believes, that is at the root of illness in this country. A natural reaction to stress is overeating, which causes obesity, which in turn contributes to diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and other life-threatening conditions. “When I see fat guys, the first thing I think of is that they’re not able to cope with stress the way they should,” Dr. Oz said. Stress is a fact of life, he added. “You can’t leave stress. But you want to cope with stress differently.”

After recommending five ways to control how long and well we live — managing blood pressure, avoiding cigarettes and toxins, exercising 30 minutes a day, adopting a healthy diet that is easy to follow, and controlling stress — Dr. Oz demonstrated the right way to breathe, which is the opposite of the way most people inhale and exhale. Children do it correctly, he said, and athletes are taught to breathe the right way. “You can practice it,” he told the audience, sticking his stomach out while inhaling and pulling his stomach in while breathing out. “You can learn to do this.”

Aided by video clips and projections, Dr. Oz lamented the fact that 50 million people in the United States do not have health insurance. “We have to change this,” he said, after showing a segment from his television show about free clinics he and his staff have provided in such cities as Houston, Texas, where the rate of uninsured is highest. “You can’t have a wealthy country if you’re not a healthy country.”

Trim and fit himself, the 51-year-old Dr. Oz spent a portion of his presentation talking about weight. It is waist measurement, rather than weight, that really matters. “Your waist size should be half your height,” he said, demonstrating with graphics how belly fat “literally comes alive” when fed high fat, low-fiber foods. Conceding that it is harder for some people to manage weight, he said conventional diets don’t work. “Biology will always beat will power. There was never a time in humanity’s history when we wanted to lose weight, so your biology is never going to recognize you’re trying to do it on purpose,” he said.

Our bodies are programmed to overeat as a reaction to chronic stress, according to Dr. Oz. “One thousand years ago, there was only one primary stress cause. It was famine,” he added. “You eat food you want to eat because that’s what you do in a famine.” Eating a handful of nuts a half hour before a meal and eliminating sugary drinks are among the jump-starts he offered to adopting a successful regimen.

Sobering statistics about sleep deprivation and abuse of sleeping medications and the effects on health of anger and hostility were among other topics touched upon. But Dr. Oz stressed the importance of forgiveness of one’s self when plans go awry. “If you miss your turn, what does the GPS say? Does it berate you? It’s not a big deal,” he said. “Just make a U-turn. We all make mistakes, just get back on track.”

During a question-and-answer period, Dr. Oz got a rousing response when he was asked how he dealt with stress when he was an undergraduate at Harvard University. His one word answer: “Alcohol.” But he was quick to add that following his example wasn’t the best idea.

Dr. Oz’s final message was about having meaning in life. “What we lack the most today is connection,” he said. “Your heart needs a reason to keep beating, which is I think the most important lesson I have learned from my patients.”

Princeton Borough Council voted last week to introduce its annual budget. which includes no increase in the municipal tax rate. This is the fourth year in a row that property taxes will not be raised.

The Council voted unanimously to introduce the preliminary $26.2 million budget. It is expected to be formally adopted in a public hearing scheduled for April 10.

The March 6 meeting also included a discussion by Council and administration of goals for the remaining months before consolidation becomes a reality next January. Improving relations with Princeton University, better trash collection on Nassau Street, an inventory of trees, and the preservation of the Dinky station and right-of-way as a historic site were among the topics mentioned.

Council members raised specific issues on which they would like to focus. Barbara Trelstad asked about the status of the proposal to designate a historic district in part of the western section of the Borough. The historic preservation review committee is considering the issue, which has neighborhood residents on both sides, and is expected to make a recommendation soon, she was told.

Kevin Wilkes suggested sharpening the focus on Witherspoon Street, where there is “no coherency,” he said. “With the number of properties being flipped, vacant properties, and properties under renovation, the streetscape there looks a lot worse than along Nassau. We need to get developers working in the neighborhood to participate. But we need to take the lead to come up with cohesive design standards. We should revisit the need and get key players to participate at least in a joint meeting, to identify some of the needs.”

Mayor Yina Moore requested that attention be paid to the status of properties under the aegis of the Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton (HABOP). Jo Butler expressed concern about trash on Nassau Street. A discussion of the Historic Preservation Element of the Master Plan and a Complete Streets Policy Resolution were among the topics to be discussed at the Council meeting Tuesday night.

Alan Lightman

IN LOVE WITH SCIENCE AND ART: Physicist/novelist Alan Lightman spoke about his dual passions at the Princeton Public Library on Friday.

“Ever since I was a boy my passions were equally divided between science and art,” said author Alan Lightman, setting the scene for his Friday evening talk at the Princeton Public Library. Mr. Lightman’s appearance was part of a series of events leading up to the community-wide observance of Pi Day, a celebration of the famous constant as well as the birthday, March 14, of Princeton’s favorite resident, Albert Einstein.

No one could question what seemed to be Mr. Lightman’s cosmically-aligned qualifications for the event. He is the author of Einstein’s Dreams (1993), a best-selling novel that has been translated into 30 languages. Currently a resident of Massachusetts where he holds a joint appointment in science and the humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Lightman spent his undergraduate years at Princeton University (class of 1970). Later, his dissertation committee at the California Institute of Technology, where he received a PhD in theoretical physics, included physics superstar Richard Feynman.

Mr. Lightman’s talk on Friday evening focused on the similarities and differences between art and science. He was, he said, “fortunate to make a career of both.” He took part in boyhood experiments (including a Sputnik-inspired rocket project), as well as literary pursuits; when he showed his grandmother a poem he’d written about his grandfather’s death, he was impressed to discover that “marks on a paper” could be so forceful as to make someone cry.

While scientists seek to name things, artists tend to “avoid naming things,” Mr. Lightman suggested. Artists’ stock-in trade are concepts like “love” and “fear” that may not convey much to the reader. “There are a thousand kinds of love,” Mr. Lightman observed, and it is the author’s job to show “that particular ache,” rather than name it. “Each reader will draw on their experiences to understand the author’s meaning,” he said, adding that “a novel is not completed until it is read by a reader, and every reader completes a novel in a different way.”

Set against the sensual, hard-to-define experiences of art, Mr. Lightman described his love for the “shining purity” and “certainty” of mathematics, where there is a “guaranteed answer.” The area of circle, he reminded the audience, is πr2 andthere are “no contradictions.” The topic sentence that is essential in expository writing, he noted, is “fatal” in fiction.

What science and art do have in common, Mr. Lightman said, is the fact that “both seek beauty,” which is “hard to define in any field,” but “we know it when we see it.” Both art and science celebrate simplicity while trying to make sense of life’s complexities, he added. As an example of beautifully rendered fiction, Mr. Lightman described the scene in James Joyce’s short story, “The Dead,” when Gabriel Conroy recognizes the transcendent power of his wife Gretta’s love for a young man in her past.

Mr. Lightman reported that “the creative moment,” when he is totally immersed in his writing, occurs whether he is writing about science or writing fiction. He then becomes “pure spirit … oblivious to everything.”

In his talk, Mr. Lightman, who was introduced by Library Director Leslie Burger, referenced poets Rainer Maria Rilke and his advice to “try to love the questions themselves,” and Walt Whitman’s realization of the “sweet hell” he anticipated when he knew he was destined to be a poet.

Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of thirty stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905 as he worked in a patent office in Switzerland but was thinking through his theory of relativity. The New York Times review of the book described it as a “magical, metaphysical realm …. Captivating, enchanting, delightful.”

Mr. Lightman’s other novels include Good Benito; The Diagnosis; Reunion; Ghost; and his most recent book, Mr g, a creation story. His books on scientific topics include Origins; Ancient Light; Great Ideas in Physics; and The Discoveries. He has also published a book of poetry with the perhaps unsurprising title, Song of Two Worlds. His essays and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New Yorker, Nature, The New York Review of Books, and other publications.

“You’re significantly there from where I sit today,” said Center for Governmental Research (CGR) consultant Joe Stefko at Monday’s joint Township Borough meeting, where he talked about the transition process that will lead to consolidation.

Mr. Stefko, who was also a key advisor to the Consolidation and Shared Studies Commission, said that his presentation was meant to “look out over the horizon for the next three to four months to give you a sense of priorities.”

Using slides to “walk through”Кa “few of the high points regarding the process to date,” Mr. Stefko suggested that the detailed research done by the Commission prior to their recommendation to consolidate provides a “high level context” from which the Transition Task Force and its subcommittees can proceed.

Noting that the baseline study leading up to consolidation began in the fall of 2010, Mr. Stefko acknowledged that some circumstances С particularly a lower number of Township police at present С have changed and would need to be tweaked, and that figures cited are only estimates. He noted, however, that the Commission’s “options report” does not simply provide recommendations; it describes several potential possibilities and how the Commission chose among them. It’s a “very helpful context,”КMr. Stefko said. More than once he pointed to the Commission’s final report as a good “point of departure,” describing it as the “single most valuable resource” at “every level” for the Task Force to use as a blueprint. He spoke of the dangers of “mission creep,” and its capacity to stymie the consolidation process.

Those who did not seem to share Mr. Stefko’s sentiments included Borough Council member Roger Martindell, who was a member of the Consolidation Commission, and Transition Task Force member Jim Levine. Mr. Martindell pointed to consolidation as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity and said that aspects of it should be subject to further exploration. Mr. Levine wanted Borough Council and Township Committee members to provide directives for or against such additional research. On a more conciliatory note, Task Force Chair Mark Freda spoke of the “flexibility” that should characterize any decision-making.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner and Committee member Bernie Miller, who were both on the Consolidation Commission and are now serving on the Transition Task Force, also spoke of the amount of work already accomplished by the Commission. The role of the Task Force, they said, is to serve as an “oversight body” implementing consolidation by, for example, establishing reasonable timelines and assigning responsibility, while continuing to share information with the public. Mr. Miller suggested that the Task Force would be “remiss” if it ventured off course to explore other options at this point.

Comparing the process to childbirth, Mr. Stefko emphasized the pragmatic nature of the Task Force’s work, and the necessity of identifying primary and secondary priorities. At this point, he observed, a parent wouldn’t decide what musical instrument their child will be playing in the ninth grade. They would, however, decide what hospital they wanted to go to for the delivery and, perhaps, pack a bag.

Mr. Stefko also noted that decision-making now does not preclude changes in the future. In 2013 the new government won’t look like the ones that will exist in 2018 or 2025.

Princeton Borough Mayor Yina Moore will not run for mayor of the consolidated Princetons, but will instead be a candidate for the council that will govern the combined municipality.

“First, I think we have the opportunity to elect a mayor who has broad experience, has contributed to the Princeton community outside of the political arena, and who has the vision and fortitude to lead our community in a new era,” Ms. Moore said in an email Tuesday. “Second, I decided to run for office one year ago to bring my experience, leadership, and clear purpose to bear in addressing a myriad of community issues. Although I have been in office only 70 days, I have put forth several initiatives that I want to focus on for the next few months as mayor without the distraction of a mayoral campaign.

“Third, I want to continue the implementation of these initiatives and contribute to decision making as a voting member of Council to ensure that benefits of consolidation accrue to the entire community,” she concluded.

Ms. Moore’s decision leaves the field open to two Democrats, current Township Committeewoman Liz Lempert and Councilman Kevin Wilkes, who are currently seeking the endorsement of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO). The PCDO will meet on Sunday, March 25 to endorse a candidate for mayor and decide which of the 10 Democrats vying for council seats to approve.

Meanwhile, the Princeton Republican Committee is seeking potential candidates for both mayor and council, as well as membership in the new Committee, which will be chosen from each of the 22 new voting districts in Princeton in the June primary. Chairman Dudley Sipprelle has issued a statement urging interested parties to contact him at or (609) 497-740.

In addition to Ms. Moore, the Democrats running for seats on the combined council, which will begin governing the consolidated Princeton in January 2013, are current Borough Council members Heather Howard, Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Roger Martindell; Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman; and newcomers Tamera Matteo, Patrick Simon, and Scott Sillars.

Ms. Matteo ran an independent home and design store in Palmer Square and later in Princeton Shopping Center, for more than 10 years. Mr. Simon serves on the Princeton Joint Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission, and Mr. Sillars is vice-chairman of the Transition Task Force.

Julia Sass Rubin, Lisa Levine, and School Board members Molly Chrein and Andrea Spalla were among the participants at a Statehouse meeting organized by Save Our Schools last week “to highlight the $3.6 billion underfunding of public schools by the state since 2010, including $715 million in Governor Christie’s proposed 2013 State Budget.”

Governor Christie’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget also proposes changes to the school funding formula that would result in permanent funding cuts to districts that educate low income and non-English speaking students. These changes would mean a permanent reduction of more than $1 million for Princeton. The cuts will affect both the traditional public schools and the Princeton Charter School. Ms. Sass-Rubin said that this year’s budget has been unofficially dubbed “the reverse Robin Hood budget.”

Princeton Regional Schools believes that it has been underfunded by $1,689,548 in FY 2010; by $3,702,597 in FY 2011;Кand by $1,616,146 in 2012. Including proposed FY 2013 loss of $1,508,595, the total loss is $8,516,886.

Ms. Spalla reported that she spoke at last week’s event “not as a Board member, but as a private citizen. I felt that it is important for members of the press and the public to understand that the failure to fund schools at the levels set by law in the School Funding Reform Act affects all children around the state, including here in Princeton.”

“I don’t think people have a clue about how badly underfunded their schools are,” agreed Ms. Sass-Rubin several days after the event. “And they certainly don’t know about the budget cuts, which specifically target poor and immigrant children.”

The new budget, Ms. Rubin-Sass emphasized, would disproportionately affect low-income districts, and communities of color. She likened the governor’s change to the funding formula to someone saying that “since cancer patients die at much higher rate than people who have warts, the solution to narrowing that gap is to take away funding for cancer treatment.”

“I suspect many politicians in Trenton are trying to obfuscate the complexities surrounding school funding in order to drive a political wedge between urban and suburban voters, rich and poor voters, even between regular public school and charter school parents,” said Ms. Spalla.

In her comments at last week’s event, Ms. Spalla said that Princeton “is not the uniformly wealthy community that many believe us to be. We count among our students significant percentages of children who qualify for free or reduced lunch and English-language learners.” She said that underfunding in recent years and, in particular, this year’s budget formula pose a serious threat to the progress of eliminating the achievement gap among students. And, she added, “it is quite simply impossible for any school district to maintain achievement levels, much less raise them, while being starved of the funds necessary to do so.”

Ms. Sass-Rubin encouraged residents to call their legislators to let them know that these numbers, which are going to “devastate districts,” are unacceptable.

The 15 districts represented at last week’s event came from all over the state, and included urban, suburban, “some wealthier, some poor,” reported Ms. Sass-Rubin. “All of them are hurting.”

“We are all in this together, and it’s crucial for people to realize that,” added Ms. Spalla.

Save Our Schools is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of parents and other “concerned residents” who believe that “all New Jersey children should have access to a high quality public education.”


(Photo by Emily Reeves)

Four-Year-Old Jayden Hunt, of Cream Ridge, was the youngest Einstein look-alike in Sunday’s contest, which took place in the Community Room of the Princeton Public Library. The Pi-Day festivities were organized by Princeton Tour Company’s Mimi Omiecinski (show here with Jayden) and Joy Chen of Joy Cards. Einstein’s actual birthday is today, March 14. For details about other Pi-Day winners. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

March 7, 2012

THE PINNACLE OF HUMAN PERFECTION: Captain America struck a heroic pose during his recent “Career Day” visit to Julie Fallas’s fourth grader class at Community Park School. The students later reported that the Super Hero “talked about his job protecting and serving the world.”

Fourth-graders in Julie Fallas’s Community Park School classroom were talking about what they want to be when they grow up. Ben Moyer wants to be a “sports player;” Betsy Williams looks forward to being an artist (“all kinds”); veterinarian-to-be Lily Rooney has two cats and “used to have a dog”; and Emily Sullivan wants to be a marine biologist (she’s already been snorkeling). This year’s “Career Day” visitor, however, was not of any of those. He was Captain America.

Thanks to classmate Zach Klein’s publicist dad, Jeffrey, the Marvel Super Hero recently “infiltrated” the school and landed, fully-accoutered, in Ms. Fallas’s second-floor room.

A press release prepared with the students’ help reported that “The tables were turned on Captain America as the students became inquisitive reporters who wanted to learn more about this Super Hero.”

“We asked him all kinds of questions, like, who was his girlfriend and what his shield was made of,” reported Luke Pompliano. In response, the children learned that Captain America does not have a girlfriend; “he has found it hard to devote time to a relationship as he is kept busy protecting and serving the world,” they reported later. His shield, Luke said, is made of “steel or something,” and Alex Clara helpfully added the fact that Captain America’s best friend is Hulk.

“The kids were unbelievably engaged,” said Mr. Klein, who attended the event along with the “official actor” who played Captain America. “They learned what it’s like to be a reporter interviewing someone.”

In a conversation afterward, the students agreed that Captain America is “a figure of the imagination.” Asked about real-life people who help others, Aidan Regan suggested doctors; Matthew Robles chose policemen; and Laoano Bell spoke for the Marines. Other “helping” professionals identified by the children included teachers, life guards, and firemen.

In their press release, students were eager to point out “the importance of having a good team in the work place.” Captain America, they explained, “is a member of The Avengers, a Super Hero team that also includes Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, and Black Widow. Being a part of a team that works closely together to achieve the same goals is invaluable to get the job done the right way.” Hulk, by the way, was instrumental in showing Captain America that “it is more important to use your brain instead of just brute force to get the right results.”

Do any of Ms. Fallas’s students aspire to be Captain America? “I don’t want to wear blue and red and white,” responded Jason Carrillo. “You probably make $1 a month,” observed Emily Sullivan.

With Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes announcing his candidacy for mayor and several residents stating their intention to run for the six Council seats that will become available once the Borough and Township consolidate on January 1, 2013, Princeton’s future political landscape is beginning to take shape. Township Committee member Liz Lempert declared her own candidacy for mayor in recent weeks, while newcomer Tamera Mateo officially entered the contest for the Council last week.

Others up for Council seats so far include Township Committee members Lance Liverman and Bernie Miller, and Borough Council members Heather Howard, Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Roger Martindell. In addition to Ms. Mateo, those running who are not current members of the governing bodies are Patrick Simon, who serves on the Princeton Join Consolidation/Shared Services Study Commission, and Scott Sillars, who is vice-chairman of the Transition Task Force.

Those interested in running for mayor or Council who seek the endorsement of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) have until Sunday, March 11, says PCDO president Dan Preston. “We certainly want people to understand that as far as party endorsement goes, they need to be out by Sunday. And if they want to vote on the endorsements, they have to be a Democrat residing in Princeton who has joined the PCDO by Sunday.”

Mr. Wilkes has been a member of Borough Council since 2008. Since then, he has served as its president, police commissioner, finance committee member, and as liaison to the traffic and transportation committee, human services commission, recreation board, and sewer operating committee. He was Princeton Township’s building inspector from 1991 to 1994. A graduate of Princeton and Yale universities, he is an architect and builder.

Asked how he would balance the demands of his business, Princeton Design Guild, with the task of being the first mayor of the combined Princetons, Mr. Wilkes said he is confident it could be done, especially since he is his own boss.

“There’s no doubt it would be time-consuming,” he said. “But I’ve thought a lot about how it would work. I would pick two days a week to do mayor, and four to devote to the business. I would try to have Sundays off. But I actually think that once we get beyond the immediate repositioning of consolidation, having one governing body meeting instead of two, it certainly shouldn’t take any more time than it does now.”

As mayor, Mr. Wilkes would focus on streamlining municipal expenses and easing the tax burden for residents, while making government more efficient.

Mr. Wilkes credits his talent as a good listener as an important qualification for the post. “I have an ability to listen to multiple visions and multiple voices,” he said. “I speak Ivy League and blue collar. I have professional clients and laborers who are immigrants, and I’m fluent in Spanish. I have an ability to assimilate different conversations. We’re not a homogeneous town. I can listen and understand many points of view, and I have a skill set in leading projects to completion.”


(Photo by Emily Reeves)

It was a Bollywood, Hollywood, Solleywood romp Saturday at the Paul Robeson Center as performers with Zoe Brookes’ Stone Soup Circus, along with members of Todd Reichart’s Princeton Theater Experiment and other Princeton area variety artists, transformed the Arts Council’s Solley Theater into a low-budget community television station for their joint production, “OnAir.”

A recent public program to discuss residents’ rights under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) attracted a particularly engaged audience in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library Saturday.

“We thought it would be helpful to offer training for residents on their rights under OPRA and OPMA” (more commonly known as the “Sunshine Law”), said Planet Princeton publisher Krystal Knapp, who along with the library and the non-partisan Citizens Campaign, sponsored the morning program.

While lawyer Walter Luers, a public records expert who has successfully represented many New Jersey residents in public records and public meetings cases, came prepared to do most of the talking, audience members eagerly took him up on his offer to answer their questions as he went along. Mr. Luers, an attorney from Oxford, N.J., who is the president of the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (, never made it to the end of his notes.

Veterans of the Princeton Fair Tax-Revaluation Group and others concerned with the transparency of meetings held by the Transition Task Force and its subcommittees asked and learned about the proper way to request documents under OPRA, and what does and does not constitute a policy-making meeting under OPMA rules. “There’s not a more powerful tool than the Sunshine Law,” observed Heather Taylor, board member of the American Civil Liberties Union-New Jersey, who was present at the meeting.

OPRA is a New Jersey law that governs public access to government records maintained by public agencies in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey defines a “government record” as “any record that has been made, maintained, or kept on file in the course of official public business, or that has been received in the course of official public business.” Government records come in many formats, including paper records, electronic files, and audio recordings.

Like the Freedom of Information Act, which operates at the federal level, requests for state and local information under OPRA must be made in writing. Typically they should be addressed to a municipality’s “Records Custodian,” or, as a fallback, to the municipal clerk, who is required to forward the request to the appropriate staff member, or tell the resident seeking information who that person is. Once they have received the request, records custodians have seven business days in which to respond by telling the information-seeker whether their request will be filled immediately, or if it requires more time.

Mr. Luers suggested that “more time” could extend to about a month, but not much more than that. He emphasized the importance of using the correct wording in making the original request (including describing the format in which you want to receive the records), and he advised those who find themselves waiting for their requests to be filled not to send in daily requests that will only inundate (and probably aggravate) records custodians. He discouraged the use of the word “information” in a request as too vague, and encouraged listeners to be specific about the time frame they’re asking about.

Mr. Luers counseled using common sense rather than resorting to all-or-nothing anger when working with municipal staff members. Getting at least some of the documents one has requested is “a foot in the door,” and the documents in-hand may often lead to other pertinent records, he noted.

Mr. Luers also reported that obtaining copies of a municipality’s financial register over a period of years is a good way “to see where the money is going.”

Borough Mayor Yina Moore and Township Mayor Chad Goerner will probably be glad to know that Mr. Luers nixed a suggestion that municipal mayors be required to review incoming OPRA requests, saying that it would be an inordinate, and inappropriate, amount of work for them. “Be careful not to burn out your public officials because they’ll tune you out,” he observed. Not riling public officials also means, he said, refraining from using petitions or “four-page emails” to make a request.

The Sunshine Law

“You cannot hold meetings by email,” said Mr. Luers in response to a question about New Jersey’s OPMA. “Coming to a consensus by email is against the law.”

New Jersey‘s OPMA is designed to ensure that decision-making government bodies in the state conduct their businesses in public except in specific circumstances where exclusion of the public is needed to protect the privacy of individuals, the safety of the public, or the effectiveness of government in such areas as negotiations or investigations of individual members. Every public body must publish its meeting schedule by January 10 or within seven days of its annual organization’s meeting, whichever is later. A 48-hour written notice must also be given for any regular, special, adjourned, or unscheduled meeting.

Mr. Luers will lead another discussion on maximizing the use of New Jersey’s OPRA and OPMA in a free “webinar” on Tuesday, March 13, from 6 to 7 p.m. To register, visit

Following four lengthy meetings spanning the past three months, Princeton’s Regional Planning Board last Thursday approved the Institute for Advanced Study’s proposal to build faculty housing on land it owns bordering the historic Princeton Battlefield. The Board voted unanimously for the plan, which was amended with modifications suggested at a previous meeting by historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer.

But Bruce Afran, attorney for the Princeton Battlefield Society, which vigorously opposes the plan, said the organization will appeal the decision. “The Planning Board was really just the opening skirmish,” he said Tuesday morning. “The main fight to preserve it is only just starting.”

Mr. Afran said he is preparing to challenge the Institute in light of a 1992 settlement agreement in which they gave up the right to build on the land bordering the Battlefield. In addition, he will ask the Department of Environmental Protection to reopen a letter of interpretation about the existence of wetlands on the site. “It is smack on top of wetlands,” he said, claiming that two separate surveys, in 1990 and 2011, indicated that this was the case. “This is illegal under state and federal laws and we will go to court on that.”

Christine Ferrara, senior public affairs officer at the IAS, said Mr. Afran misinterprets the agreement between the Institute and the Township. “Especially according to one member of the Planning Board, who was involved at the time of the settlement, his interpretation is incorrect,” she said. “Now, the colleagues on the Board have concurred. It is very clear-cut, in our view.”

Numerous residents of the neighborhood surrounding the IAS have spoken in favor of the plan in recent months, while Battlefield Society members have said it will desecrate the site of General George Washington’s counterattack and first victory against the British in the January 3, 1777 Battle of Princeton. The 15 faculty homes, eight of which are townhouses, will be located on seven acres, with an additional 10 acres adjacent to the Park to be preserved as public open space.

“Every vote in favor of the Institute’s plan is a vote against American history,” said William Tatum III, a scholar at the David Library of Washington Crossing, Pa. Battlefield Society member Brian Kovacs echoed Mr. Tatum’s views, calling approval of the proposal “misguided reasoning” and “an act against our heritage.”

Among those sympathetic to the proposal was Didier Fassin, the Institute’s James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Sciences. “This is an intellectual community, and to build an intellectual community one needs proximity,” he said, referring to the Institute’s preference that its scholars should be housed on site. Homes in the surrounding neighborhood have become too costly for faculty members, the Institute has said.

Mr. Afran’s claim about the existence of wetlands is based on a survey commissioned in 1990 by the IAS when it wanted to build housing on a different section of its property. That survey showed wetlands in the area where the housing approved last week is to be built, he said. The same person who did that survey was hired by the Battlefield Society last year. She found the same evidence of wetlands, he said.

“The Institute knew about these wetlands all along, but they concealed it,” Mr. Afran said. “The wetlands feed right into the Stony Brook and Lake Carnegie and our drinking water supply.”

The approved housing is to be built behind a buffer zone. According to the plan’s modifications, that buffer will be moved away from the edge of Battlefield Park and put directly behind the homes, shielding them from view and maintaining open space. The amendments also call for a path to be installed through the Institute property, with interpretive signage at the northern end about the Battle of Princeton; providing public access to the buffer zone; and reducing the size of one of the houses.

Before voting, members of the Planning Board expressed sympathy with both sides of the issue. But ultimately, the Institute plan won out.

“So many times, objectors who come before us have financial gain [as their purpose],” said Janet Stern. “Here, we have passion and zeal, and I’m wrestling with a lot of it …. Given that the Institute does own the land and that it does have the legal right to build …. I would support the application.”

Peter Madison said the application had to be viewed not just from an emotional point of view, but from a legal standpoint. The Battlefield Society would likely appeal a vote in favor of the proposal, he said. “But I believe if this application would go to court, I think the application has a much stronger case. So I will vote in favor.”

Mildred Trotman said, “As sympathetic as I am to supporters of the Battlefield, given all the information we have been given and the history of this project that goes back years and years, I feel confident supporting it.”

In a written statement, Institute Director Peter Goddard said the IAS was “immensely pleased” to have received approval. “This plan not only enables us to maintain the essential residential character of our community of scholars, but it will also enhance the Princeton Battlefield Park, which the Institute helped create and expand. We plan to work with others to promote the improvement of the interpretative materials in the park so that visitors might gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the Battle of Princeton. We look forward to partnering with local, state and regional bodies to that end.”

Mr. Afran said yesterday, “The hurdles against the Institute are immense at this point.”

Princeton Borough Council last week voted to approve a request by AvalonBay, the developer of the University Medical Center at Princeton’s soon-to-be-vacated site, for rezoning. With Jenny Crumiller casting the only dissenting vote, the Council weighed in 5-1 to recommend the proposal to the Planning Board.

Numerous residents of the hospital’s neighborhood were on hand to express their concerns about the rezoning, which would allow AvalonBay to have higher density and fewer affordable housing units in the rental community it is under contract to build on the site. The existing hospital building would be demolished as part of the plan. AvalonBay is set to take over the property after the UMCP moves to its new complex on Route 1 in Plainsboro May 22.

“Adding 44 units arbitrarily, just so the developer can make more money, seems like a breach with the community,” said Ms. Crumiller, who was applauded by residents in the audience. “We are ready for the developer, we want the developer to come in. We should stick to the 280 units. All they have to do is the site plan.”

Leighton Newlin, chairman of the Housing Authority of the Borough of Princeton (HABOP), also criticized the proposal. “We should not allow more units, 280 was what we agreed upon,” he said. “What are we losing? We are losing the opportunity to have low, low income housing so that we can preserve the cultural diversity of our community.”

An online petition opposing the zoning, at, had 92 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon. Residents are concerned that the high density of the AvalonBay plan will change the character of the neighborhood and cause traffic congestion. The developer wants to put in 32 to 40 units per acre. Joe Bardzilowski, who organized the petition, said during the meeting that this density is higher than other AvalonBay rental communities.

Resident Peter Marks argued against giving AvalonBay bonus density, urging the Council to consider affordable single family housing as an alternative to the apartment complex. “This is probably the most valuable [land] in Mercer County,” he said. “Understand, please, that this is not the only alternative on the table.”

If passed by the Planning Board and then given final approval after being returned to Council, the plan would allow greater density without proportionally increasing the number of affordable housing units in the apartment complex. Current zoning allows 280 units, with 20 percent designated as affordable.

But AvalonBay wants to build 324 units, while lowering the percentage of affordable apartments from 20 to 17 percent. This would require rezoning. The Borough usually requires 20 percent affordable units in new complexes. AvalonBay has argued that the development would still have more affordable units than the industry standard of 15 percent.

The developer would build nine units as “workforce” housing, which could rent to households, possibly set aside for Princeton residents, with incomes between about $40,000 and $98,000. These rents would be less than the market rate units, which would range from $1,600 to $3,200 a month. Council members suggested including emergency and fire workers in this group.

Bret Rubin, a representative of AvalonBay, said the company will soon submit a full concept plan, including results of traffic studies and environmental impacts. The five members of Council who voted to recommend the company’s plan said they did so as a way to move the project forward and to consider the additional data AvalonBay submits to the Planning Board.

Describing it as “a remarkable work,” because it is based on only a one percent increase from last year, the Princeton Regional Board of Education approved a tentative total operating budget of $75,607,106 for the 2012-13 school year. With the inclusion of total grants and entitlements ($4,267,340) and repayment of debt totals ($4,512,325) the total budget comes to $82,386,771. The local tax levy on the projected budget will be $67,926,798.

“Although our state aid increased, it increased by only $100,000,” reported Superintendent Judy Wilson at last week’s Board of Education meeting. “We were certainly hoping for more.” She noted that even with the additional money, the district’s reinstatement of the aid lost in the spring of 2010 was still at only 54 percent.

Following approval by the County and State, area residents will have a chance to weigh in on the proposed budget at public meetings at the end of March. Ms. Wilson said that details of the budget will be posted on the District’s website in the coming weeks. Residents of the Borough and the Township will get to vote on the budget at the upcoming April 17 election.

It was noted that the budget does not provide for building improvements or new technology, and, later at the meeting, Finance Committee member Dorothy Bedford reported on the withdrawal of money from the District’s capital reserve account for improvements in building safety and security. The installation of solar panels is also being explored in an effort to reduce cash outflow for energy expenses, she said.

Candidates who filed for election to the school board by the February 27 cut-off date include Borough residents Dudley Sipprelle and Martha Land, who will be vying for two vacant seats along with current president Rebecca Cox, who is running for reelection. In the Township, where there is one vacancy, only one candidate, Patrick Sullivan, came forward to to run. Area residents will be voting for new school board members as well as a new budget at the April 17 election.

Describing “teacher evaluation” as “a hot topic in our nation,” Ms. Wilson reported that the District has received new guidelines “to work our way through during the next 18 months” until implementation in September 2013. “Stay tuned,” she counseled, noting that there will be “a lot of information” and “a lot of work.”

Patrick Lenihan, Supervisor of Visual and Performing Arts, presented a very well received presentation on District programs in visual arts, drama, dance, and music. “Participation in an arts program is critical to every student,” he observed. The District’s “special relationship” with the Princeton Symphony Orchestra was noted with particular appreciation.

February 29, 2012

The recent norovirus outbreak on local college campuses appears to be winding down, but it may not be over yet. Public health officials note that an outbreak may take several weeks to wane and that the numbers of cases will fluctuate from week to week.

“We continue to work closely with the State Health Department, Mercer County Division of Health, Princeton University, and Rider University (Westminster Choir College),” said Princeton Health Officer David Henry. “In addition, my two inspectors have been advising retail food establishments of the importance of keeping food handlers home if they have diarrhea or vomiting, and urging employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. Hand sanitizer has little or no effect on the norovirus. We are also in close contact with local schools (public and private).”

“The cases being seen at the health center have declined and they are now very close to the average number that are usually seen at this time of the year,” said Princeton University spokesperson Martin A. Mbugua. Since January 29 [through Monday, February 27], he said, about 269 students with symptoms of gastroenteritis have been seen at the McCosh Health Center.

Mr. Henry confirmed the University’s account. “Within the past five days, the number of students seen at McCosh Health Center with GI symptoms has dropped to three to five students a day. Last Thursday, they only saw two students. Their baseline number for students with gastrointestinal symptoms averaged two a day in February 2011, so they are currently approaching baseline numbers for gastrointestinal symptoms.”

Only two additional cases of norovirus were reported over this last weekend at Rider, where the total number among students on both campuses [Lawrenceville and Westminster Choir College, in Princeton] as of February 27 was 219, according to a Rider update released at the beginning of this week.

The College of New Jersey was less specific. A recent article in the school’s paper, The Signal, reported that while “some students have been experiencing norovirus-like symptoms,” an accurate determination could not be made because “all of the students” who reported symptoms declined to have a stool test. “Without a stool test, Health Services can only identify these students as having a gastrointestinal illness,” rather than actually having norovirus, the article noted.

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey with campuses in Camden, Newark, and New Brunswick, appears to be relatively unaffected so far. “The university has received only a small group of students with positive flu tests at the health services,” reported Executive Director Melodee Lasky. “When compared with previous years, the number is lower than expected.” Outside the state, however, new cases have been reported at George Washington (85 cases) and Howard Universities, both in Washington, D.C.

At the local elementary-high school level, the norovirus alert that recently appeared on the Princeton Regional School District’s website remains on the front page, albeit further down. Princeton Country Day School’s website simply has a cautionary “message from Nurse Carol” providing a link to the Centers for Disease Control site describing how “to keep your family healthy.”

Although the label “stomach flu” is often used for noroviruses, the viruses are unrelated to the micro-organisms that cause seasonal influenza or other influenza, including the 2009 H1N1 flu (so-called swine flu). One in 15 Americans every year are reportedly affected by norovirus, which causes sudden vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps that continue for 24 to 48 hours.

In response to the outbreak at Rider University, the makers of Lysol say that they are donating 200 cases of disinfectant spray and disinfecting wipes — 2,400 products in total — to the Rider Student Health Services department for widespread campus distribution.

Leap Year Birthdays

THEY’RE REALLY JUST TEENAGERS: Princeton University colleagues David Dobkin and Kristina Miller were both leap year babies, which means that officially, he is turning 16 today, and she is turning 14. And at the Nassau Club, a special luncheon is being held for those celebrating February 29 milestones.

Most people of middle age and beyond tend to be coy about revealing the year they were born. But for Kristina Miller, Senior Systems Manager at Princeton University, and David Dobkin, the University’s Dean of the Faculty, their shared birthday today marks just another year of adolescence — officially.

These two colleagues were born on February 29, 1956 and 1948, respectively, during leap years. That means that though Ms. Miller has been on this earth for 56 years, she is really turning 14 today. Mr. Dobkin has been around for 64 years, but he’s only 16.

They are among several local residents celebrating leap year milestones today. At the Nassau Club, a special luncheon will mark the birthdays and anniversaries of those who came into the world or chose to marry on February 29.

It all has to do with the Gregorian Calendar, also known as the Western or Christian calendar, the internationally accepted civil calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. A reformation of the Julian calendar, it modified the cycle of leap years. Leap Year Days occur once every four years, adding an extra day at the end of February and bringing the solar year of 365-and-a-quarter days into line with the calendar year of 365 years.

“It was never a big deal,” says Ms. Miller, who grew up in Princeton and was featured in Town Topics on her official first birthday, when she was actually four. “It’s just sort of an oddity. My parents always made me feel special about it, though. My father was a mathematician and engineer at RCA, and for him, the whole statistical thing was fascinating.”

The unique circumstances don’t seem to have negatively affected Mr. Dobkin, either. He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa., but has lived almost half his life in Princeton. “It has amused me, mostly,” he says. “It’s particularly amusing now because a store sent me a coupon saying come in for a discount this month, because it’s your birthday. So I went in, and they asked me, ‘What day is your birthday?’ I love watching people try to figure it out when I say February 29. They want to know, ‘How old will you be?’”

The odds of two people working together and sharing this unique birthday are slim. “I was looking for statistics on line about how likely in a group of people you would find shared birthdays — for a ‘regular’ birthday, it’s apparently 50 percent in a group of 23 people and goes up to 97 percent in a group of 50 people,” Ms. Miller wrote in an email. “But I can’t find any probability statistics for people with a February 29 birthday. I have to imagine in an office of 16 people, it’s pretty darn low!”

But how about three? He isn’t in their department, but Steven Gill, the University’s Budget Director and Associate Provost for Finance, is another leap year birthday celebrant. He turns 60 — or 15 — today.

Around the corner from Nassau Hall at the Nassau Club, Princeton resident Herb Hobler has organized a luncheon today to mark several February 29 birthdays and anniversaries. Having arranged Wednesday lunch speakers at the club for the past 27 years, Mr. Hobler is always on the lookout for pertinent topics.

“When I saw that this was leap year, I jumped on it,” he said. “I have one woman who will be turning 12, and another turning 13. They all have older children. There is a lawyer who is turning 16. Then there is a couple who were married on February 29, under the Mercer Oak. And two new people who just moved to Stonebridge, also married February 29.”

Mr. Hobler said he will introduce the celebrants with some anecdotes about leap year. Each person marking a birthday or anniversary will be invited to speak for a few minutes, then blow out candles on five cakes that will be served to everyone for dessert. The party will end with recorded music — but only music performed by famous artists, like Dinah Shore, who were born on February 29.

Having enough money to be able to donate to charitable causes is one thing. Knowing how to focus that philanthropic urge is another. That is the charge of the Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF), which for the past two decades has been directing donors toward meaningful causes, both locally and on a broader basis.

According to the Foundation’s new Board Chairman David R. Scott, the ongoing economic slump makes the mission more important than ever. “We’re promoting philanthropy, helping philanthropists in all sorts of ways,” he says. “But basically, we are here to convince the community just how important philanthropy is today. We’re getting people to be more aware of helping others.”

The Foundation, which encourages participation from small donors as well as those with deep pockets, was formed in 1991 and now manages more than 250 charitable funds, including numerous nonprofit endowments.

Mr. Scott was an original board member of the Foundation. He served from 1991-2002, took a break, and returned in 2005. “It’s interesting to see how it has matured and grown,” he says. But the central purpose and mission hasn’t changed.”

His appointment comes after years of volunteering at numerous local and national non-profit organizations, including Princeton Day School, Planned Parenthood Association of the Mercer Area, the International Tennis Club of the U.S., and United Way of Greater Mercer County. Mr. Scott served as university counsel at Rutgers University for 20 years before retiring in 2004. Earlier in his career, he was chief counsel and acting director at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in Washington, a senior trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice, an assistant district attorney for the city of Philadelphia, and an attorney at the Philadelphia firm of Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz. He and his wife live in Princeton.

Since 1991, more than $100 million has been given to the Foundation for distribution to needy causes. There are numerous areas of giving, including housing, civil rights, the arts, education, health, historic preservation, youth, animal welfare, and the environment. As Mr. Scott sees it, the organization’s role is not only to help donors decide how to make gifts. It is also about helping the recipients of those gifts operate most effectively. Seminars, workshops, and one-on-one sessions are held to help promote philanthropy and stimulate dialogue.

“More and more, we’re emphasizing supporting advising and educating non-profits to help them do their job better,” Mr. Scott says. “We spend a lot of time on that, and people don’t necessarily know that about us. Another thing not generally known is that we manage funds.”

The Foundation recently conducted a survey of funded organizations, asking how they could be best served. “Five years ago we were focusing on new programs,” says Mr. Scott. “Now, we’re helping more with central operations. So our guidelines will be adjusted this year to reflect what they told us. We want to work more on systematic change.”

It is called the Princeton Area Community Foundation, but the donations made reach organizations in central New Jersey and beyond. “Some of our donors give nationally, or even abroad,” says Mr. Scott. “As long as they’re a not-for-profit 5013C, they are eligible. We’re focused locally, but not limited to that.”

With widespread unemployment and a sagging economy continuing to cause distress, the need for charitable giving is growing. “It’s greater than we have, so we need to increase our asset base,” Mr. Scott says. “We have $75 million now, and that’s terrific. It has enabled us to do all sorts of things but we need to do more.”

Boys Swim Team

(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Members of the Princeton High boys’ swim team celebrate last Sunday after they beat Scotch Plains-Fanwood 109-61 in the Public B state champions meet held at The College of New Jersey. The win gave the PHS program its first state title and capped a 17-0 season. In the process, Little Tiger swimmers won nine of 11 events and set eight school records.


With only nine months to go before consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township becomes law, the Transition Task Force has moved into high gear. The group has formed several subcommittees and scheduled a packed roster of meetings through the end of November.

The Communication Subcommittee was to meet this morning, February 29, while the Personnel Subcommittee is scheduled to gather this evening at 5:30 p.m. The Finance Subcommittee met last week. “We talked about a potential budget. We also discussed working together on our municipal budgets for 2012,” said task force member and Township Mayor Chad Goerner in an email. “The committee also discussed adding several more resident members and will propose these members at our next full task force meeting.”

That session is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room of the Township Building. Task force and subcommittee meetings are posted on the website of the Center for Governmental Research, at

Whether all of these meetings should be open to the public was a topic of lengthy discussion at last week’s task force session. While chairman Mark Freda urged that as many as possible be held in public, member Jim Levine questioned whether all of the subcommittee meetings should be open to the public.

“I don’t think the public is served to have all the ideas out there being discussed if they are not ultimately going to be recommended,” he said. The subcommittees make recommendations to the task force, which in turn suggests actions to the Borough Council and Township Committee. Mr. Levine suggested that meetings be open to the public when the discussion reaches a certain level, after the subcommittee has had a chance to work on issues “without having to pull any punches with anything distracting to employees and the public.”

Task force member Linda Mather did not agree. “I don’t want lawsuits over this,” she said. “We should abide by the Open Public Meetings Act for all our work.”

Mr. Goerner, who also served on the consolidation commission, commented that the commission’s subcommittee meetings were always open to the public. Task force member Bernie Miller said he didn’t think all of task force subcommittee meetings should be held in public. “Some discussions are very sensitive,” he said. “There has to be some shield.”

Ultimately, the task force voted to follow the Open Public Meetings Act for both its full meetings and the sessions of its subcommittees. Also at last week’s meeting, the group voted to recommend that the Center for Governmental Research (CGR) be hired as project consultant, and that attorney William Kearns be hired as its lawyer. Both recommendations were approved Monday night, February 27, at a joint meeting of the Borough Council and Township Committee.

Based in Rochester, N.Y. CGR served as consultant to the consolidation commission. They will be paid up to $62,000 to help the task force with project management and staff support.

Mr. Kearns is a senior partner with Kearns, Reale & Kearns in Willingboro. He is the general counsel for the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and co-chair for the League’s Legislative Committee. The task force had to hire its own attorney because it is not permitted to use municipal attorneys for legal advice. Three attorneys were interviewed for the job.